After throttling the Texans for their seventh straight win, the Patriots are on roll. The focus of fans and followers of the team is on closing out the regular season in strong fashion and making a deep run in the playoffs.
But while the team has the look of one of the NFL's elite, it isn't without holes, and some of those holes will be filled in the 2013 NFL draft, which, if he held today, would have the Patriots picking 30th overall.
Todd McShay, the director of Scout, Inc. and one of ESPN's draft experts, has released his initial first-round mock draft (read HERE, Insider content), in which he has the Patriots taking Tavon Austin, a shifty wide receiver out of the University of West Virginia.
McShay, who points to defensive tackle, perimeter receiver, guard and defensive back as primary positions of needs for the team, says of the choice:
"The Patriots might not want to spend a first-round pick on a slot receiver, but Austin's playmaking skills as a receiver and return man (and even out of the backfield) will make him a tempting option in this area of the draft."
A quick glance at Austin's statistics suggest that the 5-foot-9, 174-pound player has some of the versatility the Patriots crave: he had six games with more than 100 yards receiving in 2012, and actually carried the football 21 times for 344 yards and two touchdowns in a 50-49 shootout loss to Oklahoma.
McShay's thinking of Austin fitting in with the Patriots could be tied to the status of both Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, the team's top two options in the slot (although Edelman is on injured reserve), who are both free agents after the season.
With three important regular season games to play and a postseason trip on the horizon, it's understandable that the draft is off the radar of many Patriots fans. But when the season concludes, it won't be long before the draft become a primary focus of the offseason.